"Remember we are blessed": Governor Haley, Saturday Evening

"Today was a day of trying to identify exactly where we stand," Governor Nikki Haley said in a press conference from South Carolina's Emergency Management Division, Saturday evening at 6 p.m. 

The representative from the National Weather Service said that Hurricane Matthew made landfall earlier today just south of McClellanville. The storm is now pulling away from the Myrtle Beach area to the northeast. Conditions are improving. Even though rain is tapering off, residents can expect strong winds from the back end of the storm in the Grand Strand area. As of a few hours ago, there were 74 mile-an-hour gusts at the Myrtle Beach Airport. The wind threat will last through the evening.

Crews have not been able to measure storm surges at this time. However, tide levels at several points reached record highs. Some areas of Charleston reached tide levels that have not been seen since Hurricane Hugo. In terms of rainfall, the Lowcountry has seen levels of ten to fifteen inches across the Lowcountry, the Pee Dee and the Grand Strand. Further west into the Midlands, five to eight inches of rain fell. Hilton Head saw gusts up to 88 mph, and winds of 82 miles per hour were seen in Beaufort, 71 mph at Georgetown and 69 mph at the Charleston Airport.

Governor Haley reported that many trees and power lines were down, making many roads impassible. However, despite flooding and debris, structural damage in the state was not as wipespread as originally predicted.

Some evacuations will be rescinded as early as tomorrow. Law enforcement, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and local officials will be working together to report damage and road closings as residents move back in to evacuated areas.

Ports will return to normal operation at 10 a.m. Monday morning. 

There were significant damage and road closures in Jasper, Colleton, Beaufort, Allendale, Bamberg and the Holly Hill areas. Secretary Christy Hall from the Department of Transportation reported that all major interstates: I-26, I-20, and I-526 are open and available to utilize. Interstate 95 has been cleared of trees, but there are two sections that are currently flooded and unavailable. The first fifteen miles of I-95 coming from North Carolina are currently flooded and closed, as well as I-95 in the Ridgeland area (south bound), which is also closed due to flooding on the roadway. South Carolina's barrier islands are currently impassible, and the Ravenel Bridge is also currently closed.

Secretary Hall added that trees will be removed in priority order, based on local needs and evacuation returns. 

A law enforcement representative said that 761 law enforcement officials and 261 National Guardsmen are assigned to security missions. They are working together to patrol affected areas and areas without power. The Chief advised those already attempting to return to evacuated areas that many roads, due to tree-fall and flooding, may be impassible or closed. Curfews remain in affect in Berkeley, Beaufort, Dorchester, Colleton, Jasper, Charleston counties, the City of Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

Governor Haley mentioned that the Waccamaw, Edisto, Black, Lynches and Pee Dee rivers are going to be an issue, and are being monitored. There is the possibility that these will crest in the coming weeks.

There are 77 shelters open with 6,500 residents residing in them currently. Eight special needs shelters are currently available. 

There are currently 883,627 South Carolina residents without power.

Three dams have been breached, two in Dillon county and one in Lexington county. Dams will continue to be monitored.

Community leaders and school leaders are meeting to discuss when schools can safely reopen.

Governor Haley warned residents to avoid stagnant water, and to prevent children from playing in groundwater. There can be bacteria and chemicals in this water, and it can be dangerous. The governor also advised not driving through any sections of road with water on them because there could be downed trees, power lines, and broken road in these areas. 

Governor Haley also warned as residents remain without power and used generators, not to use those generators in garages. This places a huge risk, in terms of carbon monoxide poisoning. See South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control for more information about Carbon Monoxide safety.

Governor Haley also asked residents to stay off the roads for the time being. Flooding, tree-fall and debris remain issues that state workers are still attempting to clear and remove.

"Remember that we are blessed." the governor said. "What really was an unusual storm that was coming at us from all directions, we were able to do the best that we could to keep everybody safe. Keep in mind, lives are what's most important.

For more information about shelter and evacuation information, go to SCEMD.org.  Go to SCDOT.org or call 1-855-GO-SCDOT to find alternative routes. Also on the SCDOT website, view real-time cameras and see travel times.

Call the Team South Carolina tip line at 1-866-246-0133 if you do not have access to the Internet and need assistance.